Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Libertarian hero and small government crusader Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has a message for the Census Bureau: "None of your business."
In his weekly column for constituents
, Paul writes that the only question the Census Bureau has the constitutional right to ask Americans is, "How many people live here?" Anything more than that, the congressman says, is an invasive expansion of government power.
"It is not hard to imagine that information compiled by the census could be used against people in the future, despite claims to the contrary and the best intentions of those currently in charge of the Census Bureau," he writes. "The government can and does change its mind about these things, and people have a right to be skeptical about government promises."
The 2010 census asks 10 questions, the fewest of any decennial count in decades. In addition to asking how many people live in each household, this year's census asks for respondents' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and race or ethnicity. Past forms have asked for people's occupations and incomes, and even the make of their cars and their immigration status.
Even though the 2010 census questionnaire is among the shortest, conservatives such as Paul, Rep.Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), have questioned the Census Bureau's authority to collect even the information on this year's forms.
Last week, Paul was the only member of the House to vote against a resolution encouraging Americans to participate in the process, which is used by governments to determine everything from transportation funding to the make up of congressional districts.
In the end, Paul writes, "If the federal government really wants to increase compliance with the census, it should abide by the Constitution and limit its inquiry to one simple question: How many people live here?"